Gasoline Powered Leaf Blowers Daily Emissions
. . . Senator Hillary Clinton is attacking President Bush for breaking his campaign promise to cut carbon dioxide emissions, saying “a promise made, a promise broken”. And then out of habit, she demanded that Bush spend the night on the couch . . .
 Craig Kilborn

Every day of the year, more than three million gasoline-powered leaf blowers in California spew over forty-eight thousand tons of Carbon Dioxide into your California air at two hundred miles per hour.

That is almost eighteen million tons of Carbon Dioxide every year.

Carbon Dioxide is a significant contributor to Global Warming.

Fixed-source/fixed location industries polluting on this scale would be and should be shut down by regulators.

Daily Carbon Dioxide

One more time, now. . . .Carbon Dioxide is a significant contributor to Global Warming . . .

In addition to wasting roughly thirty percent of their fuel by boosting it out through the exhaust and into the air, two-stroke engines used in most so-called “gardening” tools burn their remaining fuel very inefficiently—at levels of emissions that would preclude your personal automobile getting a “clean” smog certificate.

By 2016, California's gasoline-powered leaf blowers will boost over thirty-five million tons of Carbon Dioxide per year.

At current growth rates of about seven percent per annum, there will be more than six million gasoline-powered leaf blowers in California by year 2016. Those gasoline-powered leaf blowers will then be spewing over ninety-six thousand tons of Carbon Dioxide into your California air at two hundred miles per hour, every day of the year.

That ninety-six thousand tons of Carbon Dioxide is in addition to the three million gallons of raw unburned two-stroke fuel that will be spewed into the air every day, the one-hundred-and-eighty thousand tons of dust boosted into the air every day at two hundred miles per hour, and the twelve to eighteen hours per day of noise that will not have been reduced in any way.

Is that 17½ million tons of carbon dioxide per year a “Big Number”? Let's make some comparisons.

According to an October 15th 2007 article in the San Francisco Chronicle (Scientists Gauge Greenhouse Gases Above S.F. In Warming Experiment), California's CO2 “budget” is 400 million tons per year. Our gasoline-powered leaf blowers produce about 4 3/8 percent of this. “Gardening” equipment responsible for 4 3/8 percent of California's CO2 budget? One has that uneasy feeling this sounds like a lot of CO2 for a bunch of “gardening” gadgets . . .

How does this really compare? Let's look at another CO2 source (commercial aviation) that's always in the limelight.

A 21st September 2007 article in the International Herald Tribune supplement to the Asahi Shinbun (Aviation And Global Warming—Keeping The Skies Friendly) by Giovanni Bisignani (Director General and Chief Executive of the International Air Transport Association), notes that the United Nations Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) estimates that aviation today is responsible for two percent of global CO2 emissions . . .

Looks like—in relative terms—California's gasoline-powered leaf blowers are responsible for twice as much of California's CO2 “budget” as the global airline fleet is responsible for the entire planet's CO2 “budget”. Way out of proportion, wouldn't you agree?

Addressing solutions to future airline growth, mister Bisignani goes on to state,

“The first part of the answer is efficiency—better air traffic control, including straightening air routes and more efficient operations, can reduce fuel burn by 18 percent . . . . 

Unfortunately, politics often gets in the way of good common sense. Uniting Europe's skies offers the biggest single opportunity to improve aviation's environmental performance. But after 15 years of talks, a Single European Sky is still just an idea. This political failure results in 12 million tons of unnecessary carbon emissions each year”.

Once again, let's draw comparisons.

If we get rid of all the gasoline-powered leaf blowers from California, we can eliminate almost fifty percent more CO2 than the Europeans would achieve in a year's worth of airline operations if they could get their political act together. If we got rid of all the gasoline-powered leaf blowers in the United States, European airline operations could have a fourteen-year breathing space (no pun intended) to straighten up their act.

But maybe global aviation may be a little too esoteric and, well, too “global” for many people to grasp, so let's look at another item closer to home that's also been in the news.

An October 5th 2007 article in the San Mateo County Times announced with much fanfare that Pacific Gas And Electric (P G & E) will “give away” (at rate-payers' expense, of course) one million compact fluorescent bulbs (CFLs).

The article goes on to quote P G & E as saying that replacing a million incandescent bulbs with compact fluorescent bulbs will result in the “elimination of 200,000 tons of carbon dioxide”. The article did not state a time period over which the (CO2) reduction would be realised, and requests for clarification have been ignored . . .


But as in all such (especially public) announcements, we must ask the incisive question: is the stated number (200,000 tons CO2) a “Big Number”? In other words, how does this quantity stack up against other sources of carbon dioxide?

We saw from the chart above that California's gasoline-powered leaf blowers generate 17½ million tons per of carbon dioxide per year, and growing steadily year by year.

If the P G & E quoted quantity of 200,000 tons is an annual quantity, we see easily that by choosing to eliminate all gasoline-powered leaf blowers from California we can eliminate eighty-five times more carbon dioxide per year than the million compact fluorescent bulbs can achieve.

Turning this comparison on its head, for P G & E's ratepayer-subsidised largesse to eliminate carbon dioxide comparable to that generated by California's three million (increasing seven percent per year) gasoline-powered leaf blowers, P G & E would have to “give away” eighty-five million compact fluorescent bulbs. That would cost a bunch.


A much cheaper choice (and more environmentally benign, if you consider the mercury issue) is simply get rid of the gasoline-powered leaf blowers, thereby getting rid of the annual 17½ million tons of carbon dioxide, and, as bonuses, getting rid of the annual 540 million gallons of spilled fuel, the annual eighteen million tons of boosted dust, return us to quieter neighbourhoods for the first time in thirty years, and wouldn't cost the rate-payers anything.


If the time period over which the (CO2) reductions are the lifetimes of the bulbs instead of annual numbers, the disparity in savings is greater: between 255 and 340 times as much. P G & E's ratepayer-subsidised eleemosynary gesture is the proverbial “drop in the bucket”.


In an interesting (likely not final) sequel to P G & E's well-meaning ideas—a simultaneous demonstration of the Law Of Unintended Consequences combined with “Don't Make Vast Plans With Half-Vast Ideas”—a November 16th 2007 article in the San Francisco Chronicle (Bright Idea Might Cost California) relates how recipients of the ratepayer-subsidised “give-aways” are selling their CFLs on eBay, further diluting P G & E's would-be good intentions . . .

Contact Office Of The Governor
The Obvious Conclusion . . .

The clear answer to this pernicious source of air pollution, water pollution, and unnecessary contributor to Global Warming is to
exercise your choice and eliminate leaf blowers from California.


This Web Page Updated 2008 January 05